If you’ve started to feel like you’ve reached maximum saturation on makeup, or if your collection has started to overwhelm you, might I suggest diving into organizing your collection to get the most use out of it? A well-organized collection means you’ll be able to find the products you want when you want them, and ideally, you’ll have a much better big picture view of what you have currently. My own collection has evolved from personal to ever-growing to certainly one of the larger collections on the planet (surely, right??), and I’ve learned a lot about makeup organization over the years. Below, you’ll find my tips on how to organize your makeup collection along with the best makeup storage solutions (both vanities/desks, organizers, and more decorative options).
How to Start Organizing Your Makeup Collection
When you start an organization process, it’s important to assess what products you have, how much you expect you may add to your collection over time, where you’ll store everything, how you prefer to access or look for products, what you’ll use to keep everything sorted/organized, and so on.
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Tell me what magical drawer you’d like to see, and I’ll try to share 💋 These are the “archives,” where what makeup I keep gets stored, usually by brand and then type. This is the same system I’ve had for five years or longer, and it’s always full – but that means I’m regularly shifting things out for new things and I keep less and less new things as I understand my future needs more (for the blog). What I don’t keep is donated if possible and what I can’t donate goes to friends/family.
How to Declutter Your Makeup Collection
The art of decluttering is really getting in touch with YOU and YOUR needs. I can tell you why I declutter something, but it won’t necessarily apply to you. Here are some questions to get you thinking about your needs, if you’re still figuring it out:
- Why do I use makeup? How do I use it? Is it functional? Is it creative?
- What products do I use regularly? What products can I recall off the top of my head? Which ones do I never use?
- Will I really wear something that is outside my “comfort zone” or do I just like the idea?
- If I never use X product, why am I keeping it? What purpose is it serving?
The easiest way to declutter is simply by getting rid of older products that are expired/turned/gone bad. I highly recommend checking older products for viability and whether any of them have gone past their usability, like dried out eyeliners or old mascaras or lipsticks that have lost their scent. Whether you follow the strict use-by guidelines or go by changes in smell, texture, etc., when you start to organize or reorganize, it’s a good time to make sure you’re putting away and keeping products that are still usable!
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I think this is about three, maybe four, months of lip products that I’ve swatched. Hubby was an all-star and sorted them all out so I could then assess what gets archived vs. what gets donated (or given to family for things like gloss). I keep less and less these days 🙌🏼 Pro tip: sort over an old sheet or towel… have learned this lesson the hard way 😩
For some categories of gently used beauty products, you can donate them to places like Project Beauty Share, which accepts mailed in donations as well. You can also call around to local non-profits, and it may take awhile to find one that will accept gently used (most require new products), but you never know. You’ll want to donate products that can be sanitized (so not mascara, lipgloss, etc.) and are in good (almost new!) condition. Donating is about passing something on to have a better life in someone else’s hands, not a way to dispose of trash. If it can’t be donated, see if you’re able to remove any product to be able to recycle the packaging.
When it comes to the harder part of decluttering, a lot of it is learning to let go of products that you don’t use, whether it’s because you don’t like them, they’re poor quality, or you like other products better, and that can be an emotional journey, which can be harder for some. Decluttering is important when the amount of products you have gives you negative feelings; it’s not about being a minimalist or using up everything you own–it’s about enjoying what you have. Only you can decide how much is right for you, and it’s not a competition to see who can have the least or have the most.
If a product is poor quality and you have a better quality option, why are you keeping the poor one? Why would you choose to use an inferior product when you have a great version at the ready?
If you never wear red lipstick, why do you have five of them? Why not keep the best one for your coloring? (Maybe make a point to wear it, even if it’s just around the house! Or try dabbing it on as a wash/light stain.)
I heartily recommend checking out r/MakeupRehab for more support if you’re struggling with your collection, buying habits, and/or letting things go.
Determine How You Use Your Makeup
Think through your makeup routine from the types of products you use most often to how you apply them to how you decide what to wear when you wear makeup. It’s often easiest to organize your collection once you have an idea of how you think about products to look for. If you have a great memory and remember products by name, then organizing by brand/formula/shade may make sense, but if your memory doesn’t keep space in it for names, it may make more sense to organize by something like color or finish or function.
Products you use more often should be the easiest to access at any given point, so that might mean making your go base products like primer, foundation, and powder nearest and altogether, rather than grouped by type (like all foundations together). If you tend to have “everyday” or “work-safe” products and “weekend” products, having them separated in this fashion will make it easier to pull from for the occasion. It’s not a bad way to organize one’s products by putting some “special occasion” colors together so that when the occasion occurs… easy!
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For example, here’s how I think about my own use and how I have things setup on my end, which likely will not apply to you but may give you an idea of the thought process and what drives the how of organization! As I spend the bulk of my time trying new products, there are only a limited number of basics that I keep ready, such as foundations that work well for me, a few lip colors that can go with a variety of cheek colors when I’m swatching 10 in a row, blush/highlighter shades that go well with a variety of lip colors when I’m swatching 30 in a row, and then some of my favorite products that I’ll wear if I get a moment. I tend to remember formulas and some shades, so I organize most of the products I have (that aren’t as readily accessible) by brand and formula–I’ve found that I’m more apt to think “I want this one red shade by Bite…” or “I want to wear a Pat McGrath LuxeTrance…” Sorting by color, too, is likely impractical for me because 1) would take a decade to do, 2) makes it inefficient to store a bajillion products as I have.
Create the Space for Your Collection
Now that you’ve figured out what you’ll need to organize and a roadmap for how it should be organized, you’ll want to make sure you have the appropriate area for it all, whether that’s a new area or an existing area. What types of organizers and what might be practical will usually be dictated largely by your space. You might have to think vertical or outside-the-box to make smaller spaces work, but there are so many ways to organize one’s stash, regardless of space!
Best Makeup Organizers for Your Space
I’ve used some organizers in the past, have moved on from them, have married others, and know some solutions that work well for others don’t work well for me, so with the experience of archiving and storing a mini-makeup library’s worth of products, I’ll break down the various ways I’ve found work well and for whom they’ll be more suited for!
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Vanities, Desks, and More for Makeup Collections
If you’re fortunate enough to have more space and can create a dedicated area to house your collection in more furniture-like organizers, this section is for you. A vanity is really no more than a table top, which may include a built-in mirror and a drawer or set of drawers, but it is a lot like a desk, too. I find that “vanity” is often like the word “wedding” and can just add an upcharge for being a “vanity.” You can easily turn most desks into vanities by adding a mirror onto the wall or getting a standalone mirror to put on top of the desk.
There’s a reason why you see a lot of Ikea makeup storage solutions on YouTube… they’re cheap, effective, and fairly accessible (at least in the US). I personally use Ikea’s Besta Burs (mine is wider than what’s sold these days), which has two drawers and a glossy finish (super easy to clean). I love mine, and the only issue I’ve had is that the drawers could extend further out to make accessing the back of the drawers easier. Here are thoughts on other Ikea desks that I think would work well for a makeup lover:
- Ikea Micke ($49.99 to $99.99); the smaller version would work well for tighter spaces, maybe a corner in a bedroom, for getting ready. It will not offer tons of storage but should hold some of your basics like face products, brows, a few blushes, etc. within its drawer. The larger version is just about double the size, so it’ll offer a lot of area to spread out, which works in larger spaces, but it will be a poorer choice if you still need to fit actual storage units or drawers with it.
- Ikea Alex ($149.00) now comes in a desk-form with two pull-out drawers. The Alex series is hugely popular for its drawer system, and if you like the look and feel of an Alex, you might actually prefer getting a standalone table top and laying it across two Alex drawer-units instead of the desk, which would work for smaller stashes and those with more space.
- Ikea Linnmon / Alex ($126.99) is exactly as I mentioned: Alex drawers with a tabletop, though this system has two legs on the right side with the drawers on the left. I’ve seen many set-ups that have drawers on both sides. I use an Ikea tabletop with legs as my photography table and find it has held up extremely well over the years (at least five). This version would work well for someone with lots of space or who wants their vanity to double as their work space (as an actual desk).
- Ikea Knotten ($159.00) is a standing desk, available in white and birch, with two open shelves and small drawers. This would work well for someone who prefers to stand and do their makeup and is tight on space. It is not going to be the most effective for storing all the products but would work well for someone who has less (or more storage space elsewhere) and wants to display their products.
- CB2 Fullerton Modular Desk with 2 Drawers ($1,640.00) is a stunning option for those who have larger budgets and would work well for storing a mix of larger and smaller products in the drawer units (but pay attention to the larger bottom drawers and how they’d work for your purposes–good for hair dryers, body lotions but not so much for lipstick!).
- CB2 Runway Acacia Wood Desk ($499.00) is very similar in look and feel to the Micke but is a more expensive option that may be more aesthetically pleasing to some.
Storage that Displays Your Makeup
If you’ve a very tidy individual or have some products you’ve love to display, whether limited edition boxes or packaging or uniquely-packaged products, you may want a solution that allows you to display some of your products while still offering storage for others. I do not recommend having lots of open shelving/glass unless you’re willing to keep everything fairly tidy and organized!
I personally use Ikea for just about all of my makeup storage units, and I have owned them for a long time and they’ve made many moves. Frankly, I’ve had some of my Ikea furniture hold up significantly better than furniture 3-5x more expensive, so I’m a fan. The shelf units I have all over my home doesn’t seem to be offered in its original form any longer, but it looks like the Kallax shelf units replaced it (they look like twins). I use plastic storage bins from The Container Store in these, which suits me, but it might not be the cleanest aesthetic for all involved. You can often find cube-shaped storage inserts that can slide in and out (Ikea sells some for the Kallax system), which will keep everything hidden from view, too, while allowing for displaying of certain products in open cubes. Here are some other shelving options:
- Ikea Veberod (149.00) has a mix of open shelves and drawers (slightly open) with a smaller width and uses more vertical space. You can just use one or set a few up side-by-side for greater storage.
- Ikea Fjalkinge ($329.00) is a wide, tall solution with open space and two drawers. What’s really neat about the design is you can adjust the shelves and drawers to suit your needs/height/use.
- Ikea Besta (price varies on combination) is a very customizable storage solution, so you may want to visit an Ikea to plan (which is what I did). I purchased three double bookcases and removed the shelves and put in 16 drawers instead. They ran me about $600+ for high gloss black (drawer fronts made it pricey), but they don’t seem to offer that style as readily now. This Besta frame ($56.00) is half the width of what I have. This Besta combination ($470.00) shows a mix of glass and gray doors.
- CB2 70″ Helix Bookcase ($219.00) is a gorgeous option for those who want lots of open shelving and don’t mind securing their bookshelf to a wall.
- CB2 Piano White Wall Shelves ($24.95 to $49.95) come in 24″ and 48″ widths in glossy white and glossy black (CB2 also has several other wall shelves that come in different finishes with similar pricing/sizing). I recently added the 24″ shelves above my larger Ikea Besta storage units for more display space and absolutely love them. Just pay attention to the width of the shelf to make sure what you want to display will fit!
Generally, look for drawer units for office storage (sometimes scrapbook storage is a good term to lookup but can be too short to store much vertically, e.g. lipsticks standing up so check heights on drawers!) or bookshelves/bookcases for more open storage.
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Thank you everyone who suggested shelves!! @cb2 had these shelves in piano black, which match my dressers 👌 This has always been my fave spot in my makeup room, and now I love it even more! . . For those who asked, my fave @tomfordbeauty scents are: Amber Absolute, Bois Marocain, Fougere d’Argent, Plum Japonais, Oud Wood, Tobacco Vanille! I like Neroli Portofino in the spring/summer. . . And the bouquet is my wedding bouquet 💕
Makeup Organizers for Your Storage System
Now, let’s get into my favorite part: now that you’ve figured out the “system” that will hold your collection in general… how do we go about compartmentalizing everything in an organized fashion? The best and worst part… storage for your storage.
On a budget? If you receive boxes from products you’ve purchased (any type), you can use them as bins. This works well with empty shoeboxes, where you can keep or ditch the lid, or you can take a lipstick box and cut it in half, then glue all of them together to create little grids of lipstick holders. You can decorate with scrapbook paper or the like for a different aesthetic, too.
Here are several options, some I’ve personally tried and others I’m just sharing in an effort not to indulge in (because I don’t need them!)…
- The Container Store Linus Drawer Organizers ($2.99 to $9.99) are my personal go-to. I use these everywhere in my home. I use a combination of the Shallow Drawer Organizers and Deep Drawer Organizers. My pro-tip: REALLY measure and figure out the sizes you need, and if you need a lot, wait for a coupon for 15% off one item and buy a box of the size you need.
- The Container Store Clear Storage Boxes ($1.89 to $21.99) are another personal-go to for all things organizing throughout my home. I use these for larger items, like skincare and hair care. I think these are less practical for someone who a few items; I use these for more bulk organizing for something like “100 liquid lipsticks I have to swatch someday” and less for products I want to use one-by-one (like in a vanity).
- The Container Store Clear Stackable Drawers ($12.99) come in a few sizes, and you can also purchase dividers (the best part about the system). I like these for how they store product BUT I am not personally enthused over the feel and quality (they just feel very thin and squeak when I pull drawers out). For The Container Store, I was ho-hum on them, but they are very functional.
- byAlegory Makeup Organizers ($9.99 to $22.99) are for those who either have smaller collections where spending $20 on a holder for a dozen lipsticks is acceptable or for someone who has a big budget and wants to go all-in on acrylic organizers. I find acrylic organizers just get to be very expensive and aren’t as space-efficient for my personal needs (since I have a metric ton) but are gorgeous for those who more edited stashes or aren’t looking to maximize every millimeter of storage space. I reviewed their various organizers extensively here.
- CB2 Shattered Glass Pencil Holder ($19.95) is just tall enough to house eyeliners, mascaras, and the like, and if you have small to medium-length brushes, it’ll work well for that. If you have very long or more top-heavy brushes, they’ll only work well with glass beads poured into the glass (about 1/3 filled) or if the holder is pretty full. I usually use pencil holder/mugs/short glasses for eyeliners. There’s a coordinating “catchall” that would be excellent for storing foundations, primers, etc. that you want to keep on top of a table/desk.
- CB Cement Pencil Cup ($5.95) is a more industrial look and feel that isn’t as commonly seen, so I wanted to share it as a suggestion!
- Target Clarte Glass Tumblers ($9.99 for 4) are 16 oz. glass tumblers that work well for storing brushes (I have several from Target, but they were from years ago, and I don’t recall the name/style… they look like these). I use round, glass beads from Save-on-Crafts.com (only place I’ve found them) and fill them about 1/3 of the way and use these to store my brushes.
- Target Short Glass Tumblers ($0.99 each) are shorter but similar in look to the Clarte tumblers (4″, more like a pencil holder in height). There are also taller, 13 oz. versions at the same price here.
These are just a few items I’ve tried and use and a few that I’m presently drooling over! Anything that’s used to organize office supplies or kitchen utensils are often good places to start, whether desk/tray organizers, pencil holders, or paper organizers (for palettes). I find glassware is a great place to look for more cylindrical holders (I like these for pencils, liners, mascaras, brushes, etc. that are more on display), and there are some gorgeous, more decorations out there. They’re also super easy to clean!
Helpful Posts from the Past
I reviewed and rounded up several acrylic storage makeup organizers/solutions previously here, which I highly recommend reading if that’s the direction you want to go in.
Here’s a write-up on organizing your makeup with additional tips and tricks using office and kitchen drawer organizers.
I love using glassware to organize my eyeliners and brushes, which I wrote about here.